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so you want to be a nutritionist…

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On a weekly basis I get a sweet email from someone who is a Nutrition major or someone who wants to make a mid-life change to follow their passion and move to a career in food and health. After writing similar emails week after week, I decided to just write a post about it since there are apparently a lot of you out there!

(photo source)

What kind of job do you have? What does a typical day look like? Do you have recommendations?

I can tell you what I do all day but… I’m not really a Nutritionist. Sure, I have a degree in Nutrition, but I’ve never had a full-time Nutrition job. Luckily through this blog, I’ve been able to ramble on about healthy food and even do some consulting work on the side to get my nutrition fix. (Thank you! 🙂 )

The truth of it is, as much as I love nutrition and food, it’s hard to know if I would choose the same major if I had it to do all over again. It’s not that I think I made a wrong choice, I fully believe that I got my first job at French Meadow Bakery partly because of my Nutrition degree, and that job led me to marketing and the combination of marketing experience along with a lot of the experience I had through this site helped get me my current job. I also wouldn’t have been involved with Camp Endeavor without my Nutrition background, so even though right now I wish I had gone to school for journalism, my Bachelor of Science has served me well.

When I was in college, I knew that I didn’t want to work in a hospital, but I did want to become a Registered Dietitian. I applied to internships (you can choose 3) but I was not matched with any of them. I was devastated. Towards the end of school (and especially after I realized I wasn’t going to get an internship) I decided that I wanted  to work in the natural food industry. I really enjoyed my time in the natural food world – but I was working in Marketing, not Nutrition.

I can’t tell you what it’s like to work as a Nutritionist, but I can still give you a few suggestions on how to get there through my own experience.

What do you recommend or suggest if I want to be a Nutritionist or Dietitian?

  • Decide what you want to do. (always an easy life question, right?)  If you want to work in a hospital or for a business that does consulting, chances are you’ll need to be an RD. If you want to do something else (not quite sure what that would be?) you might get away with just the degree. There aren’t a ton of jobs out there for a person who has a Nutrition degree but is not an RD. (there are a few jobs at WIC)
  • If you want to be a “health coach” or “holistic nutritionist” or whatever you decide to call it, you could always think about a program like the Institue of Integrative Nutrition. I absolutely love their philosophies. I always hear great things about the program and I do know a few people who work as health coaches very successfully (not sure if living in LA helps that).
  • If you want to become a Registered Dietitian, know that the internships can be really competitive.  I didn’t get chosen by the programs I applied to. (In my graduating nutrition class, about 30% of my fellow classmates who applied to internships got one). Be prepared to move depending on where you live. I think there were about 5-10 spots in Minneapolis when I was applying and you are competing with people across the country.
  • Get good grades. (this goes along with getting an internship)  Science was rough for me so my grades were not as high as they needed to be to get an internship.
  • Get working/nutrition experience. (this goes along with an internship but can also help to figure out what you want to do) Although I think that your GPA counts much more than experience, you want to have well-rounded experience to put on your application. (Working in the food service department of a hospital was AWFUL.)

Well what do you do?

Currently, I work as the Communications Manager for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and I absolutely love my job. It really isn’t nutrition-based at all, but once in a while I’m able to develop some simple recipes that can be made with foods from a food pantry or you know, someone asks me a nutrition question at work.

More questions? Leave a comment or email me: emily@anutritionisteats.com

Read Part 2 | Part 3 of the series!


Resources to check out: 

Eat Right http://www.eatright.org/  (Thanks to Maria and Lindsey for the suggestion!)


What do you want to be when YOU grow up? 

Reader Interactions

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  1. Mellissa

    I think it is funny how a lot of people just fall into Marketing/Marketing Communications. I did and I am really glad it happened that way. So this is what I want to do but I am sure it will evolve throughout my career.

  2. Maria Tadic

    This is a really great post. I’m a dietetic intern and there are SO many questions regarding this field. Another resource I found before I switched careers is the eatright.org page on how to change careers and what it takes to be a registered dietitian (RD). It gives some really helpful information!

  3. erin

    While I like communications + public affairs, it’s not where I thought I’d be at 33. If money were no object, I would go back to med school 🙂 I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was 11!

  4. Lindsey @ Sound Eats

    Agree with Maria above on the eatright.org page! Also helped me when I did a career change and went back to school for nutrition.

    Just as an FYI, I’m applying for internships right now, and you are allowed to apply to more than 3! If anyone has any questions on the internship application process or anything, let me know and I’d be happy to help!

  5. Davida

    I am currently a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I love it! I really want to make a career change (work in investment management) but have very passionate in nutrition and fitness, so I hope it works out. Funny, my degree is in journalism, but it should have been nutrition, lol.

  6. Kristina @ Love and Zest

    Great resource for the RD2be! The internship process was not something that I was warned about until my Senior year in nutrition. Craziness, but so glad that phase is over! I’d be happy to do contribute to your guest post. Let me know if you’d like to chat 🙂

  7. Julia @cookandburn.com

    Thank you for the candid summary of the path you chose to take and why. I started a DTR program (I have a BA in Psych) so I will be able to offer sound nutrition advice to future personal training clients. Ultimately, I want to become a certified personal trainer and help women make an overall lifestyle change to become fitter and healthier. I will admit that I just don’t have it in my at this time to pursue a BS in the nutrition field so I took the DTR route.
    *I ended up using my psych degree to manage people, not work in an actual psych field.

  8. Michelle {The Lively Kitchen}

    I loved this post – thanks for the peek into your education and career path. I almost became a nutrition major my freshman year and, in preparation, took the intro nutrition class. When I went to talk to the professor about changing majors (I was pre-health careers at the time) he asked about my interests and told me to give food science a try too. The rest was history. 🙂

    I’ve thought about going back to school and getting a nutrition degree and then going back to the food industry as the nutrition consult within the R&D team. At my job in MN there was a team of nutritionists that were assigned to the product development projects with a health focus and I really enjoyed working with them on claim compliance and the like.

  9. misschels

    This is ahhhhhmazing information Emily. I have been thinking for a while about Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Integrative Nutriion. What sorts of jobs can you get versus having a RD? Thank you so much for all of the insightful info! I’m going to check out eatright.org asap! 🙂

    • Emily

      I think with a holistic program you can really only do health coaching, but I could be wrong. Even with a Nutrition degree, the jobs are very limited if you aren’t an RD.

  10. Hayley

    Thank you for this post! Nice to hear the experience of a fellow nutrition major! Here is what I went through; hope its helpful!
    I was a Nutrition & Fitness major, and while I planned to get my Dietetics degree, I decided to take a year or two off from school and get real world experience…or not. It was very difficult to find jobs in the nurtition field that did’nt involve serving food in a cafeteria. I got an internship with a not-for-profit organization that raises money for a nutrition related disease. Unfortunately, my role with them could be most easily described as telemarketing; not my thing. After nearly a year of searching, I landed a job doing nutrition related community outreach for a medical practice. When I say “nutrition related”, I mean I help the practices dietician get out into the community; the job doesnt have a whole lot to do with nutrition. But I do enjoy it, and I get to work closely with an actual dietician. I still want to follow through on my original plan to go back to school and become an RD. However, after reading this post, and reflecting on my own experience, maybe I am better off where I am…
    Thank you so much for this insightful post:)

  11. Amanda, RD- The Nutritionist Reviews

    I did not get an internship the first time around either. I got a job as a full time dietary manager in a nursing home where I was in charge of clinical nutrition and food service so I got a good taste of both. After working for about a year and a half, I reapplied to internships and got one. I have been a RD now since July. I contemplated changing my career after I did not get an internship but was happy that I stuck with my choice because I am passionate about nutrition.

    Good post! If anyone has any questions about becoming a RD, I am happy to help.

  12. rachael

    I am actually a freshman Human Nutrition and Foods major. I am already terrified of all the chem classes I am going to have to take, but I really do love nutrition. My plan was to always become an RD, but I’m starting to think thats not realistic for myself. Its funny because I’ve also considered switching to a Public Relations major, but I want to work with nutrition in some way. I am so lost with what to do. Are there any jobs I could get with Public Relations that relates to nutrition and health in some way?

    • Emily

      Hi Rachael, I’m sure there are as almost all industries need PR! I would recommend exploring it some more and thinking about how you want to work with nutrition because that could be a big deciding factor in Nutrition vs PR.

  13. M.

    I just graduated high-school and have told everyone I’m going to college for journalism. I love to write and it made sense. But I was reading my speech textbook on Thursday and a scenario that involved a nutritionist jumped out at me–and I thought, “that’s it!” Totally unexpected, because I haven’t had much appreciation for science and healthcare in general, but then again, I’ve never really given either a fair chance. I’m passionate about food, though, and eating well–so it just makes sense. I see myself teaching classes, providing counseling, maybe writing some articles and books–doing a lot of outreach as well. So I’m torn as to whether I would need to become a RD for that. I don’t think so, because I too don’t see myself in a hospital setting.

    Anyway, thank you for posting this! I’ll have to read part two and three! The parallels here really surprised me, though, and so I wanted to share–especially when you said you wanted to go into journalism originally.